April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

eating bagel using phone while drivingDistracted driving has become an all too common habit among U.S. drivers.

As the number of auto-related fatalities increased to the highest reported number in nearly a decade, traffic safety advocates are raising concerns over the public’s dangerous driving habits, specifically distracted driving.

To address this issue, U.S. traffic safety organizations and law enforcement agencies have declared April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a national campaign intended to educate drivers and prevent further devastation caused by distracted driving.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving occurs when your focus is diverted away from driving and redirected to another activity.

There are three classifications of distraction that can occur while driving: cognitive, manual and visual.

Cognitive Distractions

Driving requires your full attention. A driver’s response to sudden hazards, such as weather conditions, objects in the road or the actions of other drivers, is a critical factor that prevents car accidents.

Cognitive distractions cause your mind to divert its focus away from the road. These kinds of distractions include:

  • Talking to other passengers
  • Thinking about issues that are either upsetting or cause deep contemplation
  • Road rage
  • Day dreaming
  • Being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol

One of the leading elements of cognitive distractions that causes drivers to crash is multitasking.

When you attempt to multitask between two high-attention activities like driving and using a cellphone, you are unable to fully focus on either action.

Your brain begins to process information at a slower rate, which seriously affects your response and reaction time, increasing the risk of crashing.

Cognitive distractions can be avoided by staying completely focused on driving and the road ahead. You should never attempt to multitask while driving, this includes answering any phone calls you receive.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions are those that cause you to move your hands away from the steering wheel.

This can include a simple task such as reaching for a drink in a cup holder. It can also be caused by other actions that more fully engulf your attention, like using one hand to search for a lost object under your seat.

Other forms of manual distractions include:

  • Adjusting a child’s seatbelt
  • Smoking
  • Searching for objects while driving
  • Turning knobs in your car
  • Holding a cellphone while driving

Manual distractions can be prevented by planning ahead and making adjustments in your vehicle before driving.

You should also keep your cellphone out of reach and refrain from reaching for any far away objects while driving.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions occur when your eyes leave the road and become focused on another object.

Common forms of visual distraction include:

  • Looking for items on the floor of your car
  • Checking and adjusting an entertainment or navigation system
  • Looking at objects or scenery along the road instead of focusing on the road itself
  • Adjusting temperature controls
  • Applying makeup
  • Responding/typing a text message or dialing a number on your phone

Drivers often become visually distracted without fully realizing their actions. To avoid visual distractions, you should keep your eyes on the road and pull over if you need to address anything other than driving.

Your phone should also be off while you are driving to avoid any temptation to check for messages or missed calls.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has had a severe impact on U.S. roadways and the security people feel when sharing the road with other drivers.

A recent survey by the National Safety Council (NSC) revealed that while 83 percent of drivers are concerned with current roadway safety, many engage frequently in high-risk behaviors like distracted driving.

Traffic safety advocacy groups believe that U.S. drivers’ growing complacency toward high-risk driving behaviors has led to increased distracted driving accidents each year.

In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in auto collisions involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The agency estimates that more than eight people are killed by distracted drivers every day in the U.S.

A distracted driving study conducted at the University of Utah found that a driver is distracted even after the distracting action has ended. This “period of latency” can last for 15 to 27 seconds depending on the intensity of the activity and the level of the driver’s engagement.

Cellphones Are One of the Leading Causes of Distracted Driving

Cellphones are considered one of the leading causes of distracted driving. Using a cellphone while driving combines all three classifications of distracted driving and significantly increases the risk of an accident.

During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using their cellphones or electronic devices while driving, according to the NHTSA.

When drivers check a text message or email, they spend an average of five seconds looking at the device. If you are traveling at 55 mph, five seconds would be the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field without looking at the road.

A 2017 study conducted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics found that 52 percent of traffic accidents are caused by drivers distracted by their cellphones. The study’s key findings include:

  • On drives that involved a crash, the average duration of distraction was 135 seconds.
  • Phone distraction lasted for two minutes or more on 20 percent of drives when the driver was distracted and often occurred at high speeds.
  • The worst 10 percent of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in a crash than most drivers and 5.8 percent more likely than the best 10 percent of distracted drivers.

Another study that measured the impairment of distracted drivers found those who talk on hand-held cellphones display the same level of awareness and impairment as drunk drivers.

Drivers that talked on a cellphone were four times more likely to crash, while those texting and driving were eight times more likely to be involved in an accident than focused drivers.

Get Involved to Prevent Distracted Driving

During Distracted Driving Awareness Month, you can help spread awareness of the dangerous effects distracted driving has on U.S. roadways.

Although Arizona does not have any laws preventing distracted driving or using a cellphone while operating a vehicle, you can take the NSC’s pledge against distracted driving.

The NSC also has free downloadable material you can use to inform you community of the dangers of driving distracted.

Traffic safety organizations are encouraging the public to be their own messengers and spread awareness throughout their community.

Parents should lead by example for their children and never engage in a distracting behavior in front of their children.

Teens can also be messengers among their peers to speak up when a friend is driving while distracted. If you are in a vehicle and the driver is distracted and driving, refuse to ride with the individual until he or she is fully focused on the road.

Help for Victims of Distracted Driving

Those who were injured or lost a loved one in an accident involving a distracted driver may have legal options. Phillips Law Group’s Tempe car accident attorneys are dedicated to helping individuals who have suffered because of another’s negligence.

If you are attempting to file a claim, we can discuss the terms of your collision during a free consultation to determine if you can maximize your compensation. All of our work is provided at no cost to you. We only charge if we recover damages for your claim.

Fill out a Free Case Evaluation formif you have been in a car accident.